Bellerose comes together

Bellerose neighbors take to the streets after Hurricane Sandy to clear their streets of storm debris. Photo courtesy Lester Friedman
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A Bellerose man said he was inspired after seeing how his street came together in the wake of disaster when Hurricane Sandy swept through the borough, knocking down trees and power lines.

In his own words, it was nothing short of a miracle.

“The American ideal of working together, regardless of what faith, color, country of origin or language, came into action the moment the storm was over,” said Lester Friedman, of 252nd Street in Bellerose. “No one organized it. It just happened.”

After the storm had passed, Friedman said he looked outside his window to see that six large trees had toppled over, blocking 252nd Street from corner to corner. And though the site of fallen trees had become all too common in Sandy’s wake, what Friedman saw next, he said, was unusual.

“There were 12 men, without a signal from anyone, who came out and started cutting, sawing with electric saber saws, tree saws and pruning sheers,” Friedman said. “Some pulled tree branches to the curb, and in a little more than an hour the street was clear for traffic.”

Down the block, Friedman said another eight neighbors joined together with their tools to hack away at their fallen trees in order to free up the roads and return life to normal as soon as possible.

While so many other parts of the borough were on the phone with both the city Parks Department and Consolidated Edison to coordinate who would remove and treat fallen trees in the area, Friedman said he was uplifted to see the way neighbors on his block rolled up their sleeves and freed themselves of fallen foliage.

“The miracle of it all was that people came out and just started cutting,” Friedman said. “Regardless of our backgrounds or anything like that, we took care of business.”

At the end of October, Hurricane Sandy battered New York City with heavy rain and winds. According to the Parks Department, more than 12,000 trees toppled onto city streets with an additional 5,000 recorded trees down in all the city parks. Friedman got a close look at six of them, at least.

Refusing to take credit, Friedman pointed to his neighbors for helping to make the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy an experience he could look back on with fondness. Neighbors Philip Valentino and Ira Green were only two of the many who Friedman said came out of their homes to take matters into their own hands.

“This is why America will survive,” Friedman said, “because we all pull together no matter what comes our way.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 1:00 am, December 6, 2012
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